Cadbury must comply with silly rules – and so does an Eketahuna cheese-maker

One of Alf’s favourite people is unlikely to be mollified by news that bureaucrats have obliged Cadbury to change its chocolate labels in Europe.

In other words, the buggers make it hard to earn a buck regardless of your size and in which country you are operating.

European Union rules have forced the chocolate-maker to remove its “glass and a half” description from the back of Dairy Milk wrappers.

Each bar of Dairy Milk now advises consumers: “The equivalent of 426 ml of fresh liquid milk in every 227g of milk chocolate.”

The Bournville-based manufacturer has had to rethink its wrappers to conform to EU regulations, said company spokesman Tony Bilsborough.

But he denied reports the “glass and a half” slogan had been ditched. “The slogan continues,” he said. “It underpins everything we do with Dairy Milk.

“It was always used on the back of chocolate wrappers but it was an anomaly in many ways now we have gone metric. It was in danger of breaching EU laws on weights and measures.

“We started the process in 2008 – we took legal advice on that, we approached the local Trading Standards Office and they confirmed that that was the case. We have not dropped the slogan in other areas – it is what defines Dairy Milk.”

But Cadbury is bigger than Biddy, the Eketahuna cheese-maker who has fallen foul of the bloody bureaucrats in this country.

The absurd story about her encounter with silly rules was told first by Farmers Weekly and was picked up by the Sunday Star-Times.

Brandishing their food safety rule book the buggers shut down her cheese-making business after it was featured on the TV series Country Calendar.

Pensioner Biddy Fraser-Davies, who owns three cows, has been making cheese on her farm, 20 minutes north of Masterton, for the past seven years, selling it to tourists and supplying several top-end restaurants and hotels including Wairarapa’s Countryman restaurant and four-star Copthorne Hotel and Resort.

On July 11 last year, the night her business, Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese, featured on the programme, she received an email from the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) saying she was breaking the law by not having a risk management plan.

She was entitled to be dismayed by this news, because she was paying a $100 a year licence fee to Tararua District Council’s environment health officer for annual inspections, which she believed was all she needed to do.

But no.

The NZFSA will tell you the district council’s inspection was an “unfortunate error on their part” because environmental health officers have no legal authority to approve farm dairies and cheesemaking operations under the Animal Products Act.

Bugger.

But why did the NZFSA visit Biddy several weeks after the TV show?

During the visit, she says, a staff member told her she was spotted on TV.

“He looked kind of embarrassed and said that a member of the investigation and compliance team is detailed to watch every Country Calendar programme.”

A NZFSA spokesperson told the Sunday Star-Times that it did not have staff monitoring media looking for non-compliances. “In this case, a staff member happened to be watching the programme.”

Biddy’s $20,000-a-year business has been charged $3500 in administration and auditing fees since her TV appearance.

Moreover, she was banned from selling cheese during a second inspection for not showing properly documented heat treatment records.

“I thought it would be all hunkydory and they would have a look through and say ‘Gosh, well done Biddy’, but it wasn’t like that at all.”

She reckons the ban is unfair, since independent auditors found no microbiological bugs in random samples of her cheese during two separate NZFSA-ordered tests in the past 12 months.

Ah, there might be no bugs there now.

But that doesn’t mean there will be none there next month – or next year.

The NZFSA’s spokesperson said there was potential in the cheese-making process to create conditions for bacterial growth that could make people sick – particularly pregnant women, frail elderly, and people with poor immunity – and the hazards were the same regardless of the size of the business.

Alf has gone out to bat for Biddy, who wants the Food Safety Bill changed to allow people with five or fewer lactating animals to be audited by councils.

She does not say she should not have a hygiene plan.

She does say the bureaucratic auditing and verifying could be done by local environmental health officers, “as has happened to me for the past seven years.”

2 Responses to Cadbury must comply with silly rules – and so does an Eketahuna cheese-maker

  1. Oswald Bastable says:

    That would be the cleanest dairy operation I have ever seen- it wouldn’t surprise me if she wiped the cows bums before they were allowed in the shed!

  2. Just thought you might like an update: (July 2013) – From March 2012 to May 2013 I worked with MPI (Ministry of Primary Industry) officials as they developed a programme for “Micro Cheese makers”. It was designed for people with 6 or less cows, 10 buffalo or 24 sheep or 24 goats. Milk production had to be under 1000 litres of milk a week – my milk volume averages out at around 260 litres a week throughout the year -I stagger my calving so I always have milk to make into cheese. Under this programme only heat treated milk can be made into hard cheese, which must conform to less than 39% moisture, have a pH of 5.6 or less and a salt in moisture content of not less than 4% and the process must not take longer than 5½ hours from addition of commercially produced starter and draining the whey. During the year, MPI tested every cheese I made during that period -140 cheeses. No pathogenic bacteria was found in any, although I did have a slightly elevated pH in a few of them (and the taste of these particular cheeses was always superb!) I have since changed my ‘make’ procedures to ensure that my pH level doesn’t rise into the naughty level! Sadly MPI couldn’t find any other cheese maker to go on the programme -presumably because it was so prescriptive – you could only make hard cheese and you had to either own or lease the lactating animals yourself and be responsible for their sole care and management. Anyway I’m still making & legally selling my cheese and milking my lovely cows. Come and have a taste at our place – Middleton Model Railway and Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese!
    Biddy Fraser-Davies

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